With lockdown now seeming like the ‘new normal’ across the country, we are daydreaming about the endless things we’ll get up to once it is lifted, I don’t know about you but one thing this pandemic has inspired me to do is to get outside and explore my local area during my daily government sanctioned form of exercise. It was only over the weekend, I discovered some glorious fishing lakes right on my doorstep which I never knew existed before, itching to get out fishing again once lockdown lifts, I thought it an apt time to share this article from Spring’s edition, if you haven’t fished before, but are enjoying the opportunity to embrace the countryside around us, give it a go post lockdown, I am confident Susan Skrupa will be able to inspire you…
It’s free, gets you out of doors and offers unrivalled views, yet saltwater fly fishing has historically been overlooked by many. Now a growing area for many anglers seeking an exciting new challenge, from Devon and Cornwall, Chichester right up to the Scottish Highlands, fly fishing for bass is a fun and picturesque pursuit available on many of our doorsteps. As it does not require a license, saltwater fly fishing is free to anyone wishing to try it, but with time and place being key, In The Country spoke to Susan Skrupa, a talented fly fisher to find out how she got into fly fishing and her experiences so far. Hailing from the US, Susan regularly fishes the UK’s coastlines in search of its mighty sea bass – and other species she catches along the way.
How and when did you first get into fly fishing? I have fished since I was about four years old. I come from a fishing family and a long line of fisherman. But I was the first in my family to take up fly fishing. The idea was introduced by a boyfriend about 14 years ago.
Did you find it an accessible sport? Was there plenty of information out there to get started as a beginner? Having started in the north-eastern US, I found the sport pretty accessible at the time. Local shopkeepers were helpful. I conducted research and bought the minimal gear to get started. I took a casting lesson at the local Orvis store and I read a book on methods and techniques (also by Orvis). The only obstacle that I experienced was that with the boyfriend long gone – I didn’t have anyone to fish with. I went out on the water alone a couple of times in search of stripers (or striped sea bass) – and I’m pretty sure that I never caught a fish. I found fly fishing overwhelming and intimidating, and I quickly lost interest.
What is your experience of Saltwater fly fishing here in the UK? Fast forward to my time in the UK… I re-engaged with fly fishing about four years ago. And over the years I’ve had a few opportunities to fish the coastal waters for sea bass. I have fished from shore and from a purpose-built boat. Something about the salt air and the horizon line… And then there’s the fish!
Which are your favourite coastlines to fly fish in the UK? I have fished mainly around Chichester and out on the Solent, mainly out of convenience. Last summer I joined the festival in St. Mawes, Cornwall. Both are great locations, but as we are an island nation – there is so much more coastline to explore!
What is your essential kit list for a saltwater fly fishing trip? As I am usually travelling on foot I like a minimal approach. I carry an 8wt rod which helps with casting into strong winds and a small hip pack filled with my reel, nippers, saltwater forceps, leaders and tippet – and a carefully selected box of flies to match the time of year, location, and targeted species. Oh, and I am never without a few protein bars, a head torch and an iPhone!
What would be your advice to beginners keen to give it a go? It’s worth noting that it’s not an easy sport to learn (that’s ok, us ladies like a challenge, right girls?!) – but there are some great resources out there to help. Find a community for support – whether online (YouTube, blogs, podcasts, Instagram, Facebook groups) or in person (shops, fishing clubs or groups, fly fishing fairs and events). Learn all that you can and then just find a way to get out on the water and fish! Stick with it and don’t give up. With each cast and each catch you’re learning.
In your experience, did you find the fly fishing community to be welcoming? I think that I have been pretty lucky – I have been welcomed by a great group of men and women here in the UK. Sure, I get the occasional comment or two, and I am often asked if I fish (even though I am dressed in waders and carrying a fly rod!), but generally people have been open and accepting. I find accessibility to water in the UK the biggest obstacle here. There’s a good argument for saltwater fly fishing – we’re surrounded by an ocean of saltwater – and it’s free!
How to get started: In order to have the best shot at catching a saltwater species, it is essential to head to the areas of the beaches and coastlines at the time when the fish will be feeding as well as being in the know about the best flies to use for the time of year.
For more information on saltwater fly fishing in the UK and how to get started, there are a number of useful resources online and also those you can speak to for advice, try visiting pages such as the free beginner’s fly fishing course or the presentation on UK saltwater fly fishing.
Photography credit: Tom Young Photography.